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KillerEngineer (Structural) (OP)
11 Apr 11 23:57

Ive graduated studying interior / product design.
Got a job at a Civil engineering sub contractor firm.
Been working there for 2 years as an "Assistant civil engineer".
Learned alot about the business and how to design structures (oil and gas plants mainly).
Among the people that entered the company with me 2 years ago, I do consider myself amongst the better, even though they are architect / engineer grads.

My question is now, how much will my lack of education in this field hold me back? Does a BS degree really outweigh experience? Or is "Plant engineering" specific enough that experience is what really matters.
All my coleagues are mostly Architect grads and while there is some relevance, I do believe experience is what really made them what they are today. Building industries and plants isnt really something you learn in Architect class...

Alot of job applications also say "BS in engineering or relevant (something)". Could interior be counted as "relevant"?

(Im a foreigner living in Japan)

I would appreciate any insight.

Patgeotech (Geotechnical)
12 Apr 11 3:43
At the end of the day degrees/diplomas are just pieces of 'paper that reflect that you taught how to think at an institution of learning (although one could argue that the thinking and the common sense part are slowly fading away).  

There are employers that look more into where you received your 'paper' - otherwise I would tend to go with EXPERIENCE more than anything else.  For an employer, having someone with the experience means that they can slot right into projects with minimal training.

Your experience counts more than the degree.  Try to better your experience by taking on relevant training courses that could enrich your career - as well as help settling in a new country (and understanding their processes and design aspects).
csd72 (Structural)
12 Apr 11 6:08

A few blunt comments on this and apologies if I insult you as it is not my intent.

Structural and Civil engineering is about a lot of things that you cannot see, nuts and bolts are tangible outputs but the real thinking and knowledge goes into preventing collapse e.t.c. due to instabilities. Do you have this depth of knowledge?

Nine out of ten structures can be designed without a massive amount of engineering knowledge but the remaining 1 in ten needs someone who really knows what they are doing to make it work. How many of these 1 in 10 structures have you been designing or has it always been one of the 9?

I would expect that you would find it hard to get a PE licence without a degree, but it looks like you are probably in an exempt industry.

There are 2 elements to competence - training and experience. You have the right experience and the right attitude but you do not necesarily have the training. I would suggest you do some postgraduate courses as others have suggested.

All that said, the money is not necesarily with the design of these things and the project managers often get much better salaries. If you turned your career more towards that end of things I would think that your lack of engineering degree would not be a disadvantage.
SteveMartin (Mechanical)
12 Apr 11 15:41
The lack of degree can be a hindrance mostly because it is a common early filter in the hiring process.  For all of my jobs the degree was a requirement for getting in the door to the interview, but the skills & experience got the job.

Certainly you can succeed without the degree, and I know some who have, but it is harder.  Some doors will be arbitrarily closed, possibly unreasonably so.
rbulsara (Electrical)
12 Apr 11 16:00
It appears that you are still young, therefore I would say work on getting the degree, even if you do one course at a time. That will increase the worth of your experience many folds.

As stated above you can succeed so much without a degree, but its not easy. For a success you need both education and experience. At least you have the much harder part (getting a job and experience) worked out, just get the easy part done.

Also keep a goal to become a  licensed/registered engineer too.

Degree alone are worthless, See thread731-296466: 3 years unemployment.

Rafiq Bulsara

IRstuff (Aerospace)
12 Apr 11 17:37
Get the degree.  Otherwise, you'll be like a person I interviewed once; he had an arm full ogengineering training certificates.  No degree mean no pay for the un-degreeded hollywood, usually...


FAQ731-376: Forum Policies
Chinese prisoner wins Nobel Peace Prize

KENAT (Mechanical)
12 Apr 11 18:35
Yeah, the 'experience but no degree' folks will often do OK in a specific company, or even a small sector of an industry or a particularly incestuous one etc.

However, once out in the wider job market they often struggle.

Note, I'm not saying they aren't capable of doing the job, they may be better than the guy with the degree, however they struggle to get over one of the first hurdles of getting hired.

My previous boss is in that situation now, worked his way up thorough GM and it's various spin offs/acquisitions to the level of managing the entire design/drafting department for one of their sites.  However, once that site closed he struggled to find similar employment.  

Posting guidelines FAQ731-376: Forum Policies (probably not aimed specifically at you)
What is Engineering anyway: FAQ1088-1484: In layman terms, what is "engineering"?

metengr (Materials)
12 Apr 11 19:11
Go back and get your BS in Civil Engineering to level the playing field for yourself otherwise you will regret it.
Helpful Member!  flash3780 (Mechanical)
12 Apr 11 20:33
If you're interested in stepping into engineering, get a degree. Chances are, while you're probably doing a great job as a designer, you don't spend much time doing calculations to determine the adequacy of a design. It's a different job.

As a designer, you probably use "rules of thumb" and "prior experience" rather than cranking out raw numbers. Nothing wrong with that - it's the best way to design stuff. Make it like the one that worked. But, eventually you'll come to a situation that the company hasn't dealt with before. Something different. That's where engineers really shine. They calculate loads, torques, power, and stresses and perform analyses to determine the adequacy of a design. Ask yourself if you're able to determine whether a beam is large enough to mount an overhead crane to, or whether a pipe can withstand the required operating pressure with a comfortable margin. Engineers also optimize designs, saving companies money.

That's not to say that you're not as smart as the guy with the piece of paper. You might be smarter. They just have training that you probably don't have. Realistically, that's going to keep you from getting hired into engineering positions. Even if you learned all of the curriculum covered in engineering programs on your own and were darn good at it, you'd have a tough time convincing a new employer that you've got the background to do the job.

It's sort of like... you'd be leery of an automobile mechanic who wasn't ASE certified. He might be good, but how do you know that?
Twoballcane (Mechanical)
13 Apr 11 9:36
"Im a foreigner living in Japan"

I could be wrong, but I think Japan is hell bent on education and degrees.  If you do not have it, you do not have the skills, done.  However, due to the unfortunate and frightening latest earthquake event, is there an economic atmosphere for work and is there anybody even hiring?  On the flip side, Japan has to rebuild their buildings and infrastructure, so maybe it is a good time to get that degree and be prepared to be on the hiring upswing.  

My thoughts and wishes go out to all in Japan.


"If you avoid failure, you also avoid success."
"Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"  

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